Time well spent

Juneau woman benefits from new cleaning service for cancer treatment patients

Posted: Sunday, March 06, 2011

Barbara Greening doesn’t like to ask for help. She has been a strong, independent woman throughout her life, but since starting chemotherapy two years ago, her energy level has dropped considerably.

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Libby Sterling / Libby Sterling
Libby Sterling / Libby Sterling

“It’s a different kind of tired than when you’re healthy and working out,” Greening said. “It’s like you’re going to crash before you make it to the couch.”

Greening first learned she had cancer at age 18 during her freshman year of college. Now, 40 years later, she has battled the disease six separate times. She relies on her husband, Irl Palmer, to complete many of the everyday tasks that have become too tremendous for her in recent months, including the deep cleaning of their house.

Palmer does a great job, Greening said, but it’s tough for any man to clean to a woman’s standards. So when Greening’s infusion therapist Tamara Simone-Collins mentioned Cleaning for a Reason, a Texas-based service now available in Juneau, Greening was eager to learn more.

Pairing needs with solutions

Cleaning for a Reason is a nonprofit organization offering free professional house cleaning to women currently undergoing cancer treatment. The organization pairs cleaning businesses with patients in need of services through an application process. Demand for the service is growing quickly, as are the housekeeping businesses willing to participate.

After learning about organization, Simone-Collins contacted a number of local cleaning businesses and encouraged them to join the cause. Cleaning for a Reason has served clients in Anchorage, and last week Greening’s home was the first in Juneau to be serviced thanks to the efforts of Simone-Collins.

The first business owner to sign on was Bridget O’Dowd, who donated several hours of cleaning time for Greening’s home on Wednesday.

“Juneau needs this,” O’Dowd said. “Four hours of my life is nothing if it enhances her life.”

More time for living

Greening, a retired X-ray technologist, has led an active life, surrounding herself with people who enrich her experience on Earth. She spent her earlier years traveling with her family and camping, hiking and biking in nearly every corner of North America. She lived aboard sailboats for about 18 years and made the trip between Washington and Alaska by sea many times.

“There’s a whole lot of living to do out there,” Greening said, “and we live in one of the most beautiful places.”

In addition to adventuring, Greening has made many significant contributions to her community, most notably as co-founder of the Polar Bear Dip, which has become an annual New Year’s Day tradition for hundreds in Juneau. This year, on the advice of her doctors, Greening only dipped in the water up to her knees to avoid the sudden shock of the cold to her lungs. But she still splashed the frigid ocean water up on the top half of her body, feeling “invigorated” as she had each year prior.

Though Greening never had children of her own, she has many young ones in her life. Her nieces and nephews, who she has endearingly termed “the magnificent seven,” visit often, and she enjoys spending time with the children of close friends.

“They give me lots and lots of energy,” Greening said. “I feel bad that I don’t have the energy to give to them to (be active), but we can do other things.”

Greening’s love of art is one activity she enjoys sharing with children, passing her creative imagination on to the next generation. She likes to work with watercolor paints and mixed media, and is also the proud owner of a full-sized loom with which she weaves with help from the youngsters.

Greening has also taught tai chi classes for at least 10 years. The activity energizes her, she said, but she doesn’t know how much longer she can keep it up.

“I can go to class and not be feeling really great, then I start doing the tai chi with my students and the energy starts flowing,” she said.

Despite the benefits of tai chi, Greening said she is feeling less and less able to teach, and this current class session may be her last.

Although her energy level continues to drop, Greening hasn’t let it dampen her spirit. She has learned the precious value of time and of spending it with those most dear. She has found the benefits of slowing down and simply taking time.

The gift of a clean home puts Greening at ease and gives her the feeling that she can put the energy she has into other things that need to be done, like practicing the piano and spending time with loved ones.

“It’s pleasant to just be home with my husband or friends or family who come by,” she said. “We cook really good meals, take hours to eat them and try not to do too much.”

Simone-Collins plans to campaign for Cleaning for a Reason locally. Her hope is that more homes such as Greening’s and Palmer’s can benefit from the service and that more area businesses will sign on to the cause. For more information, visit www.cleaningforareason.com.

• Contact Libby Sterling at libby.sterling@juneauempire.com.

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